Defence and strife

The Baltic Sea States are no stranger to the horrors of war. As long as the area has been known it has been characterized by sedate rural communities and terrifying raids by warriors. The enormous plains and steppes of the region, noted for their fertility and fecundity, offer few natural defenses and no easy way to secure the land. As such, the flat lands around Baltic Sea area have been a crossroads for invaders ever since the taming of the horse.

The endless fields east of the Baltic Sea make up one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the world. It has rightly been called the "Breadbasket of Europe," and the soil has always supported an enormous population both there and to the limits of its export abilities. It lies on the border between Europe and Asia, bounded by mountains to the south and the cold of the Arctic to the north. Marauding raiders found the future nations of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia to be easy prey as they swept through. The Mongols invaded from the east, the French invaded from the west, and in general the area bobbed like a cork in the geopolitical sea as it was carved up from one direction to the other. The stage for the strife of the 20th century was set at the end of the First World War, when the ill-considered Treaty of Versailles partitioned the nation of Poland away from Germany and upset the only stability that the area had ever known. Previously Poland was a satellite of the then-new German state and prospering under its rule. The Treaty of Versailles returned the Baltic nations to their status as pawns torn between Russia and Eastern Europe.

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Tensions rose during the period between the world wars as various world powers tried to divide the region against itself and the people against each others. The extreme favoritism and prejudice shown to various arbitrarily chosen areas of the Baltic Nations created a background of suspicion and turbulence. During the second World War the crisis came to a boiling point, resulting in some of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever seen.

The situation improved after WWII, but it did not become good. Most of the Baltic fell under the sway of the Soviet Union, a centralizing power that felt no compunction about despoiling the area for the benefit of the city of Moscow. Only the Nordic nations of Finland, Norway, and Sweden escaped from the Soviet sphere of influence, and their fear of the Russians caused them to spend heavily on the military, join mutual defence organisations such as NATO, and generally to become a polarized, militarized state.

The Cold War began in earnest. For the next forty years the Western European and Soviet forces built up their military, outmaneuvering each other and positioning for World War III. Fortunately bankruptcy overwhelmed the Soviet Union, freeing the people from the totalitarian regime that had so long directed their lives. Unfortunately, the fluctuating and insecure conditions that prevailed after them have not been that much better for all the Baltic nations. Although the Nordic nations have prospered, and the tiny countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have done well, the transition to a free economy has been more difficult for Russia and Poland.

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